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6 February 2023
Wider justice system

Former National Chair of the Magistrates' Association, Bev Higgs JP, recently advised on the set of the BBC popular period drama Call the Midwife.

As former National Chair of the MA, I’m familiar with the unusual requests our head office sometimes receives. However, it took me by surprise when we were approached by the script executive of the BBC’s popular period drama Call the Midwife who was looking for someone to advise them on-set for an episode featuring a magistrates’ court.

It sounded too interesting an opportunity to pass up. So, on a very stormy Monday, I found myself travelling to Surrey, where the series is filmed in a very old private house and grounds. I parked near a tent and truck village that housed the catering van, artist trailers, costume stores and more.

I was very happy to be able to assist them with three scenes that took from 9am to 2pm to complete. I worked with the director and advised on a one-word script change, removed some briefcases from the set, and helped with how a bench would enter and leave a room, take notes and interact with the legal adviser. Simple enough!

The surroundings were familiar as I worked at London Weekend Television for seven years and with the director Joe Wright for the last three years. However, I am always surprised by the amount of people on a set: squads of make-up artists, lighting and sound technicians, set dressers, camera operators, continuity people and, of course, the actors.

I had the opportunity to see the kitchen, dining room, lounge and main corridor sets. Obviously, the stories are closely guarded and I couldn’t take photographs of the work. It was such a memorable experience for me on my final days as chair of the MA.

The episode aired on Sunday 5 February and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.